Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough or cannot properly use insulin, the protein required for the body to absorb glucose from the blood. Transplantation of live islet cells (the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin) has been studied as a method for curing diabetes, but donor islet cells that are transplanted into patients are attacked by the immune system, causing transplant rejection. There is a relatively low islet transplant success rate, even when using immunosuppressant drugs.
This team is developing a new solution: encapsulating the islet cells in a biocompatible hydrogel membrane. The cell encapsulation system will allow glucose and insulin to diffuse through freely, but Immunoglobulin G and white blood cells will not be able to pass through, effectively “hiding” the islet cells from the immune system. With this implantable device, diabetics will no longer have to deal with the hassle and pain of testing their blood glucose up to four times a day, calculating the correct amount of insulin, and injecting themselves.
Patient non-compliance in routinely taking the medications prescribed for them costs the US $170 billion dollars yearly. The 75 million Americans considered “health illiterate” are at particular risk for prescription drug misuse: they are 3.4 times as likely to misinterpret drug warning labels, leading to greater risk of medication-related adverse events and a doubling of all-cause mortality risk. Up to 85% of prescriptions are not refilled after the initial dispensing, which translates to an annual loss of $77 billion for retail pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. Visual cues have not improved adherence, but auditory notifications have shown promise. However, current auditory devices are too expensive to be scalable, too hard for patients to operate, and can’t be adapted to pill bottles of varying sizes.
This team is developing the RxCap, a $1 device that installs seamlessly within existing pill bottles, provides verbal explanations of proper medication use/dosage when the bottle is opened, and reminds patients to refill their medication when the time comes.
Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a treatment for patients with severe chronic kidney disease. The process uses the patient's peritoneum in the abdomen as a membrane across which fluids and dissolved substances are exchanged from the blood. Fluid is introduced through a permanent tube in the abdomen and flushed out either every night while the patient sleeps or via regular exchanges throughout the day. PD is used as an alternative to hemodialysis, with the primary advantage being the ability to undertake treatment without visiting a medical facility. The primary complication with PD is the patients’ failure to adhere to the complex protocol. This complicated protocol exists in order to ensure proper transfer of fluids while reducing side effects and complications.
The PuraCath Medical device can simplify the procedure and enhance quality of life of patients. The device is an innovative, self-contained PD catheter that doesn't rely on patient compliance.
There are over 1.5 million spinal fusion surgeries performed annually worldwide. Bone grafting is the standard practice in orthopedic medicine to foster restoration and healing of the spine in addition to providing structural and biological support. The current gold standard for graft materials is the autologous bone graft, which uses cancellous bone from the patient’s own hip (clinically termed the iliac crest bone graft or ICBG). ICBG produces the best results, but it must be extracted through an invasive procedure that is cumbersome for the surgeon and painful for the patient. There is currently no specialized device designed to extract sufficient volumes of ICBG for spinal surgery without high risk to the patient.
This team’s goal is to dramatically improve the procedure for extracting ICBG. The device will be minimally invasive, will standardize the harvesting procedure, and will allow for safe extraction of large volumes of ICBG. This will increase spinal fusion success rates while reducing patient morbidity, surgical time, and healthcare expenditures.
Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is the second most common type of healthcare-associated infection in the US. VAP occurs when bacteria form on endotracheal tubes and invade the lungs, resulting in over $10 billion in unnecessary hospital expenses and almost 36,000 deaths annually.
Currently, only two methods are used to combat VAP: sterilization and antibiotics. Sterilizing medical tubes rids the surface of transmissible pathogenic agents, but over half of all endotracheal tubes are exposed to bacteria even before being inserted, with some adhering irreversibly to the tube surface. The second technique is administering antibiotics to patients, but this has not shown satisfactory results due to bacteria’s inherent resistance to antibiotics.
This team is developing nano-TEC, a proprietary antibacterial coating that is effective in preventing bacteria formation on endotracheal tubes. In bench tests their solution is six times more effective and costs substantially less than the only other antibacterial coating products on the market.
Remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) utilize vision-based systems—cameras—for providing user feedback. But vision-based systems are inherently limited underwater simply by the distance that light can travel; light backscatters in water, creating hot spots and otherwise noisy images. The alternative solution for many of these problems is sonar, which provides clear 3D images of the seafloor, allowing ROV operators much more detailed and larger maps. However, sonar can be prohibitively expensive, costing up to ten times more than cameras.
The WolfTracks team is developing a mid-range solution between cameras and sonar. WolfTracks uses Light Detection and Radiation (LiDAR), a laser-based system, to map the underwater terrain in real-time. Wolftracks will cost less and have a larger scanning distance and lower power output than traditional low-end sonar solutions, dramatically expanding the range of uses and expanding the market for scanning, mapping, search and rescue, and other applications.
Each year, nearly 600,000 women die worldwide as a result of complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth. In South Asia, barely 50% of women have access to antenatal care, and as a result millions of women over the years have died avoidable deaths.
This team is developing a kit consisting of rapid and cost-effective point-of-care tests to screen expectant mothers for various readily treatable diseases and health problems that can lead to complications during pregnancy. The kit contains different marker pens pre-filled with reagents and a special booklet. A simple mark on a piece of paper by the test pen creates a dipstick for urine, and results in an easily read color change, telling the healthcare worker if action is needed. The kit provides a 10 to 100 fold cost reduction in the cost of tests and longer shelf life for reagents in challenging environments.
The team is partnered with Jhpiego, a leading global NGO in maternal/child healthcare, which will provide access to test populations and marketing strategy development assistance.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) recently established a university-level Innovation and Entrepreneurship Platform with the goal of integrating and enhancing entrepreneurial activity at FAU. As part of the initiative, this grant will help lay the groundwork for the development of two new programs: the Spark Incubator and a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Spark.
This planning grant supports the development of a plan for programs to support student entrepreneurship at Louisiana State University through a new interdisciplinary course in entrepreneurship, a business plan competition, and a mentorship program. The three-pronged program is designed to stimulate the formation of LSU's first E-Teams, involving undergraduates, faculty and counselors from technical, business and humanities disciplines. The overall aim of their efforts is to prepare undergraduates to become contributors to both the local Louisiana economy and the global economy.
University of North Carolina at Pembroke, 2010 - $8,000
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) serves a diverse regional community of 38% Native Americans, 32% Caucasians, 25% African Americans, and 5% Hispanics and others. UNCP is located among the poorest counties in the nation, with unemployment between 12% and 18% and per capita income 40% below the national average. In order to help the regional economy, efforts are underway to promote entrepreneurship through the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship (TFCE). The TFCE is a UNCP-affiliated organization whose goal is to promote entrepreneurship education at UNCP and provide free entrepreneurial consulting for local area residents.
This grant provides seed money to lay the groundwork for a follow-on proposal to create innovation-driven pathways for university students to lead new business development in this economically underprivileged area.